Tag Archives: manang

Nar Phu Trek: The Jungle Camp: Day 5 of 16


“You live in a beautiful country!”: Rocky trail on way to Meta, the winter settlement of Nar village.

Riverbed (near Dharmashala): Along with Koto, this morning, we left the popular Annapurna Circuit trail and headed north-east on the less traveled road. This is the Nar Phu trail. I liked it. It’s beautiful and different. I like to travel at slightly higher altitudes. Not much heat, lots of shades and you feel better.

Immediately after crossing a suspension bridge, we encountered a beautiful rocky trail that went from a steep and huge rock with Nar Phu khola at its foot. Well, the man made rocky trail didn’t impress me alone. “You live in a beautiful country,” Margriet Van Laarhoven, the bespectacled little woman who walked like a rabbit, gave the verdict after taking a snap of the trail. “Oh..ya,” I responded. And I told myself, “And one of the poorest too.” Margriet also knows what I told myself but beauty beats poverty in this part of the world. People learn to smile in poverty. And Margriet is not alone in her family to be impressed by this beauty. Her son and daughter have trekked in Nepal separately. She was always fascinated with their description and this time, taking vacation from her office in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada), the Dutch lady came to trek. She will be going around the Annapurna Circuit, crossing over to Kang La Pass, after doing the Nar-Phu circuit.

Wanda decided to camp earlier in the day to avoid sharing a camping place (in Meta) with another group that was also going to Nar Phu area. That was fine and we set up tents in a riverside area inside the jungle. The place has been named as riverbed in maps which is the most beautiful camping spot so far. There was a bee hive on the steep rock on the other side of the river, just opposite to where we were camping. That instantly became the center of attraction among us. People talked about the possibilities of going there and collecting honey. But the river was the biggest obstruction, not the difficult rock!

We did singing and dancing this evening too. I tried to add my voice to the dohori (duet) songs that boys and, for the first time, porter girls were singing. Then the dancing started. Everyone started shaking their body and twisting their waists.

The Jungle Camp
Camping in the jungle, on the riverbed, on way to Meta. Pic by Wanda

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Nar Phu Trek: Hunting Of Book Characters Begins: Day 4 of 16

Jenny with kids in Koto
Jenny is surrounded by curious children and a hotel operator woman in Koto who want to see the drawings by the Canadian artist

While their guitar gently sings
Matt was seen having jamming session with a guitar enthusiast in Chame

Koto: We are staying in a place called Koto, near Chame, the district headquarters of Manang. The better camping spot was already booked/occupied by another group. But we managed to find one at the end of the town toward Chame. I went Chame, visited government office area with Margriet and Brooke. This is an interesting place surrounded by huge hills from three sides. We also visited the Popular higher secondary school that was closed for Dashain holiday.

The Book

Today begins the hunting for the people featured in a book about Nar-Phu called Cloud Dwellers that was published some 25 years ago. Wanda had carried the book as when I saw that I instantly though about meeting the characters photographed in the book. She was also excited after hearing about this. Wanda came to the tent saying there were two boys from Nar who might be able to tell us more about the characters. They recognized almost all of the faces as if they were turning the pages of their family album.

Read about the meeting with those characters in this blog: Changing Life Of A Nepali Village: Story from Nar

Nar Phu Trek: Dancing In The Tunes Of Madal: Day 3 of 16

Dharapani: Today we arrived at a place called Dharapani and I started writing blogs in my reporting notebook. People are curious. They want to know what I am writing about and I am already hearing warnings. “Don’t write anything bad,” cautions Wanda with a smiling face. “I also want to write,” says Jenny. “But I don’t feel like writing now. That is why I draw.” Jenny is an artist who teaches drawing back in Canada. “Draw my face,” I request her. Yesterday, she had drawn a little girl and wanted me to ask her name so that she could send the sketch to Aitamaya Gurung. Gyanu assured Jenny that he would make sure the sketch reaches to the little Aitamaya.

Tents haven’t arrived yet, we just had tea. Its late afternoon and it wasn’t a long day. That is why I am finding time to write. Gyanu is doing push-up and a few other physical exercises on the camping ground. Marshyangdi khola is flowing just down with big noise.

…..

The evening was musical and people were dancing in the tunes of Ghin Tan (sound produced by Madal, a Nepali traditional drum). As Gyanu played Madal and other boys started singing folk songs, Matthew danced. Wanda, Brooke and Gyanu were dancing. I was also dancing. I mean trying to dance! There was yet another dancer: Suusan Anne Campbell (Sioux), a friendly and talkative woman who works in a public relations company in New Zealand. Her style of twisting waist was unique! Then there was group dance.

Matt played guitar at the end and sang a song. I am not sure if boys understood the songs but they were certainly enjoying the laughter of their guest as a result of the songs. That was a musical evening.

Nar Phu Trek: Maoist Tax and Aussie Songs: Day 2 of 16

dinesh wagle
I was feeling better on the second day. Pic by Brooke

This morning I was a new man. I wanted to walk. Feeling like doing something is different than actually doing the job. But I had to walk. Returning back was the only other option which I certainly didn’t want to choose. Come one, Wagle the trekker, returning back on the second day? The message would be too bad for the world trekking community (ha ha), I thought! Then I remembered my earlier trekking feats: Langtang and Gosaikunda, Kimathanka, Dadheldhura-Doti, Ghandruk-Ghorepani (and numerous other trails that are not in popular trekking maps). Hum… I am a great trekker. Thinking such things and encouraging myself, I kept moving while talking with the trek partners about everything from politics to the economy of Nepal. At one point I was asked about the interest rate in Nepal. Then I realized that I had forgotten to warn my friends not to talk with me about hard core economics.

Let me introduce Mathew William Yager (Matt) or “the nude Aussie” as he introduced himself in my notebook, here. The tall guy with one trillion tonnes of sense of humor and a portable guitar that probably weighted less then a kilo (I am not sure and I forge to ask), wanted to learn how to blog. I promised to teach him and started giving a few doses of instant ‘what-is’ on blogging: Why it is so much popular, how it is really easy to get your things published in the internet via blogs etc. A quick note from the first night: Inside the dining tent, Matt had demonstrated one of his skills- singing and playing guitar. He sang a song called The Big O upon Jennifer’s request. That was hilarious.

Wagle on the Kanak Ridge

As we return from Nar Phu trek, I pose for Wanda’s camera on the trail that passes through the ridge from where journalist Kanak Dixit accidentally fell a few years ago.

We passed through that treacherous ridge that I have named as the Kanak Vir. Celebrated Nepali journalist Kanak Mani Dixit had fallen off from there a few years ago. He was severely injured and survived with drops of waters for, I think, more than forty-eight hours. There were railings in place on the side of the cliff. Wanda and I guessed the exact point from where the silver haired activist might have had fallen.

It was so hot, inside and outside my body, that again I could feel that I was hardly dragging myself up to Bahundanda from where I made a phone call to my home and talked to my great grandfather Tanka Raj Poudel. I tried to make a few jokes out of Bahundanda (the hill of Bahuns). Bahuns are always clever, I thought, living in dandas and watching people all over from the top. But Bahundanda, at 1300 meters, wasn’t really tall compared to where we were heading for.

Tourists paying Tax to Maoists
A foreign tourist walks away from the Maoists after she gets receipt of the “tax” she paid to the rebels.

We arrived at a place called Jagat in the evening where Maoists were collecting money (they say that was “tax” by an autonomous regional government of their party) from foreign tourists and Nepali travel guides. Rs 100 per day for foreigners and a day’s salary for Nepali guides. I saw a guide strongly arguing with the comrade as to way should he pay them. Then comrades said it was voluntary. “If this is voluntary,” the guide replied, “I am not paying.” He didn’t pay.

Sorry Comrades
I am Sorry, Comrades: Maoists showed me this apology letter written by a foreign tourist last month (7/12). “He used very bad language against us and we made him say sorry in written,” said the cadre.

I took a few photographs and a video shot of the Maoist guy convincing tourists to pay the ‘tax’. I came back to the camping site, took off the shoes, bought a ballpoint pen in a shop nearby and went back to the comrades in action in flip flops to interview them. The conversation began when I slightly pulled out an identity card of a Maoist and inspected. He asked and I replied. I told them that I was a reporter traveling for fun. Before, I learned, they had taken me as a tourist when I was taking. Now they are clearly agitated. “You should have told us earlier about your identity,” one of them insisted. “You should have taken permit to take photos.” It was now my turn to fight back, verbally though. “Well, why should I reveal my identity and seek our permission to take photos of the activities that are of public interest and were happening in a public place? You claim to be running a peoples’ government and, as a citizen, I have the right to take photos of anything that is happening publicly. Plus, if a tourist can take a photo or shot video without asking, why should a reporter seek your permission?”

“We might have spoken inappropriate words,” the other guy said. “That will not be good.”

“Well, that’s your problem, not mine,” I responded.

Above is the video of a tourist talking with the Maoist ‘tax’ man.

Feeling the tension, the guy who was issuing the receipts and dealing with tourists while listening to our conversation intervened politely. Bodhraj Regmi, who identified himself as a district level cadre and a “road in-charge”, explained that it was my right, especially as a reporter, to take photos, to collect the facts and report them. He also told me in detail how much money they collect from tourists, why they collect (because the government, he said, needed money) and also shred stories of tensions with tourists in collecting “tax”. Some tourists are very haughty that they don’t want to pay the tax, he said. For such tourists, the comrade continued, “we try to convince them politely about our mission.”

“All kinds of people come and not all of them pay the tax willingly,” he said. “20 percent of them pay happily. 60 percent need a little bit explanation. 10 percent need pressure. Remaining 10 percent are really though. They just keep asking too many questions and say they are not here to pay the tax. They want to start debate. But we try to convince them. If they start moving forward without paying tax, we stop them and keep them with us for talks.”

“Do people return back?”

“Yes, there were two instances when two tourists returned back. They didn’t want to pay the tax.”

“Sometime we had to feed the tourists because they say they don’t have enough money to eat but came here because they really wanted to come. We have two such instances when we fed two Israelis.”

After receiving money, Maoists give tourists a receipt and a flayer that lauds the 19-day April Movement.

The Maoist cadre also said that though they were strictly enforcing the cease-fire rules announced in May, collecting tax was their right as they were running a new government.

Tourists paying Tax to Maoists
Wanda discusses with the Maoists and asks for guarantee that they will not levy tax in the route again.

I came back to the camping spot and, after listening to a few songs from Matt, had dinner. I was doing a story about guitar for Kantipur newspaper and here this guy was taking the musical instrument to the highlands of Manang and was playing every now and then. “Its romantic,” he said about the instrument. I had asked him why guitar stands out among the musical instruments and was popular among youths around the world. “And you become famous playing it. It’s easy to carry and suits for all kind of music.” Then he sang one anti-Australian government song. “Songs that convey message and songs that make you feel the life,” Matt said. “I like to sing those kinds of songs.” Cool dude, I thought. He aspires to record songs and bring out an album. Good luck.

I can’t play any musical instrument and I can’t dance either. That makes me feel bad. You need to have at least one such talent, I think. Anything. Dance, sing, play a musical instrument or recite poem. I lack all of them. I admire people who can dance but rarely dance! Some people might think dancing is just moving your body and bending the waist. For me, proper dancing is more than that.

Nar Phu Trek: Heading For Beshisahar: Day 1 of 16

Wagle sleeping

Wagle Hits Jenn!:I wasn’t very well on the first day, I was constantly falling asleep in the bus, and as I am told by my travel mates, I was falling over to Jenn’s shoulder. “Dinesh hits Jenn!” was what I heard Matt saying to others! And the laughter followed. I wasn’t aware of Brooke taking this photo but was pleasantly surprised when she sent me this a few days ago (Nov 1).

The alarm clock in my cell rang off just in time: 05:00 AM. I rushed to Thamel, and without taking much time, the trek team boarded bus that headed for Beshishahar, the district headquarter of Lamjung district, at around 06:15. Sometime in 09 AM I started feeling uneasy in my stomach. May be I wanted to throw out. The bus stopped, we ate snacks, I ate tarkari as per the suggestion of Gyan Bahadur Budha Magar aka Gyanu, the sardar of the trek team that included members from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands. I was invited by the group leader and the guide of the team Wanda Vivequin, a Dutch with deep New Zealand connections and lives in Canada. Tarkari seemed to be working for good but not completely. I was still reeling from the common cold that was giving me pain for the last few days. I didn’t want to miss the trekking so I though I would tame the common cold as I head toward one of the coldest places in the country.

We got off at Beshisahar, the starting point of popular Annapurna circuit trek, at around 2 PM. It was now time to move on, on feet. So did I but that was terrible. The heat was burning me inside and the backpack was definitely heaver than I had expected it to be. In addition to that, as I have mentioned earlier, I wasn’t feeling well. I could still feel fever deep inside me. At one point, while taking a quick rest at Heaven’s Restaurant in Bhulbhule, I felt like I was dying. I can’t walk, I thought. And at that point Brooke captured me in her camera (pic below).

Dinesh Wagle tired

But I was determined to make it to the destination. Destination of the day, if not of the whole trek! After an hour of walking, it felt good to see tents already installed by the camping crew on a green ground in a place called Ngadi, not far from Bhulbhule. Felt like coming back to the home away from the home. My first experience with the camping was just beginning and I wasn’t too much sure how things work in the world inside those red “toys”. But they worked quite well. I had a good night’s sleep inside the tent with Wanda on my right side.